Gawker Editors Resign After Gay-Shaming Story Gets Pulled

A salacious and widely-critized Gawker story about a media executive's extra-marital activities is doing serious damage — to the company's morale and masthead. Both the executive editor of Gawker Media and the editor-in-chief of Gawker.com resigned on Monday over founder Nick Denton's decision to remove the post without consulting the site's editorial staff.

So far, so much inside baseball. But there are some parts of this media meltdown that make it interesting. First, there's the story itself, which many writers and editors at Gawker sites have condemned. The post, which went up on Thursday and came down on Friday, was a salacious account of an alleged attempt by Condé Nast CFO David Geithner to hire a male sex worker. But this isn't another case of a homophobic politician caught in a compromising position and exposed for his hypocrisy; Geithner is a private citizen who has not made statements against LGBTQ people or supported anti-gay policies.
After the initial uproar over the post, Denton and five other Gawker executives voted 4-2 to take it down, which Denton announced on Friday night, along with an apology. Gawker's writers immediately responded, calling it an "unprecedented breach of the firewall, in which business executives deleted an editorial post over the objections of the entire executive editorial staff."

Max Read, one of the editors who resigned today, tweeted on Friday that "Given the chance gawker will always report on married c-suite executives of major media companies fucking around on their wives." And he and Tommy Craggs, Gawker Media's executive editor, both say they still stand by the story.
There probably was a way for Gawker to apologize for the story without upsetting the entire editorial staff. In an email on Monday, Read said as much, writing, "if we had simply posted Nick’s note, as much I disagreed with and disliked it — I think this Monday would be very different." But now an apparent extortion attempt has become part of the debate over the ethics of modern media companies.

It's easy to imagine editors resigning in protest over external pressure to kill stories about government spying, or about a mining company dumping chemicals illegally. But when the article in question is one of reprehensible gay-shaming, it takes more effort to feel solidarity. Still, the writers of Gawker voted to unionize in June, and unions exist to help workers push back against decisions that could hurt them — even if those decisions are connected to bad work.

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